Jun 02, 2008
Boo-hoo. Back at work. Wish I was still cycle touring. But these photos will keep me going until the next family bike trip.
We’ve just returned from cycling along Scotland’s Great Glen, the 70-mile geological fault line between Inverness and Fort William. Over four days of cycling we went there and back, using the dirt tracks and steeps of the Great Glen Way, a waymarked walking route. The fast-and-furious A82 between Inverness and Fort William is scenic because it skirts Loch Ness and other water features but the Great Glen Way is even more spectacular because it takes the high road, with jaw-dropping vistas down to the lochs.
On the return journey we backtracked along the towpaths of Thomas Telford’s monumental Caledonian Canal and then climbed to Whitebridge and the famous Falls of Foyers. After Fort Augustus we were on minor roads, some of them singletrack for long distances.
The Reidlets - Josh, 10, and Hanna and Ellie, both 8 - coped well with the unthinking motorists who use the minor roads as race-tracks. On their Islabikes they also coped well with the rocky descents of parts of the Great Glen Way.
The Great Glen Way stopped being promoted as a long-distance bike route in 2006, although cycling is still permissible because of Scotland’s access laws. The southern half of the route is easy enough, it’s on the canal towpath but the northern half is tough going, especially for kids carting pannier bags. Some of the descents are steep, rocky and sandy in places. Looking back now it’s amazing we got the kids down some of the descents.
We did about 32 miles each day. This might sound a lot for little kids but they’ve done 50+ miles a day in previous tours. 32 miles on rough stuff was an enormous ask for the kids and we arrived at our pre-booked B&Bs much later than we had planned for.
The route might have been tougher than we had expected but the fabulous weather brought out the very best in the landscapes and we were treated to postcard-perfect views of Highland highlights such as Ben Nevis, Neptune’s Staircase and Urquhart Castle.
It was still sunny when we left Inverness yesterday. Half way in to the six hour train journey it started raining. Our ride home was a wet one, but at least it hadn’t rained on our hols.
I was using Arkel pannier bags for the first time. What stunning bags! I wish I’d had this kind of equipment on previous tours.
Ellie enjoying elevated views down to Loch Ness
Wildlife spotting is easy on a bike tour, and so is wildlife hugging. The frogs en route must have been glad of our passing
The Caledonian Canal towpath from Fort Augustus is well-surfaced and, of course, wonderfully flat
Hanna descending to Loch Ness
The newest of the Loch Ness visitor centres has a revolving statue of the world-famous beastie
This was my first long distance test of the SatMap GPS device. This features genuine OS mapping and was a joy to use. As well as being able to show the kids a little blue dot showing our current position, using the joystick in map planning mode I was able to accurately answer the perpetual question: “Are we there yet, dad?”…No, not for another 2.3 miles, kids… And all while riding along, no fumbling with paper maps.
Long days in the saddle meant the SatMap would potentially run out of juice. Using the famously fiercesome power of the Scottish sun - ha! - I kept the SatMap going for the last half an hour of each day by using the Freeloader solar charger. The add-on Supercharger solar panel fitted perfectly on the pannier rack, held in place with a Velcro strap and clips.
Naturally, it wasn’t all cycling. We also took kid-friendly side trips. This is a funny shot taken by Josh on ‘Harry Potter Hogwarts Express’ steam-train journey from Fort William to Mallaig. This might be one of the world’s most scenic train journeys but this chap had seen enough for the day.
We rode Inverness to Fort William on the way down and Fort William to Fort Augustus on the way back. This was all on the Great Glen Way. From Fort Augustus we took to the roads, from Foyers to Dores to Inverness.
More pix here.
Read the rest of "Great riding. Great weather. Great Glen."...